Do you have great ideas to share in your industry?
What makes your company special in today’s economy?
Do you visit a lot of trade shows and conferences?
These are perfect reasons for any company to start sharing its unique content and show its expertise. Through blogging you can answer the most common questions your customers have about your products or services, give them tips and suggestions on how to successfully use your products and impress your prospects with the knowledge you have about your industry. After all, a blog will help your business stand out from your competitors and be a real industry leader.
2. Increase Traffic to Your Website
By creating keyword rich content, blogs give you the perfect opportunity to rank high in organic searches. By being more important than your competitors in Google search you can easily drive more traffic to your website. After reading your blog and finding it interesting and useful visitors are likely to check out other pages on your company’s website to learn more about the blogger.
3. Stay Up to Date In Your Professional Field
Creating new content on a regular basis takes a lot of time and effort. You are spending your time doing research, analyzing competitors and putting your thoughts into a new subject for your new post. This research and work will help you in your business far beyond the blog itself. Blogging is a very convenient way to refresh your knowledge about popular industry topics and keep yourself educated on new technologies and achievements in your field.
4. Build Better Relationships With Your Customers
Providing your customers with valuable information and giving them advice in return for nothing will help you connect with your customers in deeper and dynamic ways. Blogs are not static like most websites and because of that there is a great opportunity to create a real online interaction with your client base. Customers have the ability to immediately react and reply to your blog posts. Their feedback and opinion about your products and services will help you constantly modify your products and services or customer service in a way that will ensure their opinion is heard, matters and makes a difference.
5. Gives You a Chance to Express Yourself
Blogging is a great tool for expressing yourself and motivating your employees. By creating a fun and engaging atmosphere around your company blog you have great chances to involve your employees in this process and show them how they bring value to their work place. When employees are able to connect with your customer base and beyond through self-expression coupled with direct customer feedback and interaction in a fun and creative media, they are likely to enjoy the process of getting the word out about your company.
Blogging creates a very informal, direct feedback media for getting your message out to your audience and engaging that audience with dialog and interaction. Start blogging today and establish yourself as an expert, increase traffic to your website, stay up to date in your professional field, build better relationships with your customers and give yourself a chance to express yourself!
I know that a lot of small businesses are interested in social media marketing to grow their business. I speak with thousands of small business owners a year (probably just like you) who hear about social media but don’t know exactly how they can get value from social media.
I have worked with many of these business owners to help them find success in social media, and I know that small businesses can get results using social media marketing. I know first hand that social media can provide a better ROI than traditional marketing methods. Social Media marketing can deliver results when used strategically and with the right plan.
Here are 10 of the most common ways that small businesses can use social media to grow their business. In no particular order, here are 10 ways that small businesses can use social media:
1) Share Deals and Promotions on Twitter
Twitter is a powerful way to share deals and promotions with your customers (and future customers)! Big companies like Dell Outlet have sold millions of dollars through twitter, but it works for small companies too. Naked Pizza, a small pizza store in New Orleans had their highest ever sales day from a twitter promotion. Vista Prints sold $25,000 directly through twitter in their first year. Find and connect with your target audience and give them irresistable offers on Twitter.
2) Share news and Updates on Facebook
Don’t have a fan page yet? If you have fans or customers who are passionate about your business you should have a fan page. Use it to connect with customers and keep them up to date on your new products or services. I was recently getting my car fixed and found that the mechanic frequents the same neighborhood bar as I do. He told me that he checks out their Facebook page every day to see what food and drink specials they have. This bar has a creative new drink special for Happy Hour every day and a different free food item available.
Whether is it food and drink specials, new items in your store, new industry news or regulations a facebook fan page can be a powerful resource to keep your customers up to date. Over 1/3 of people who are fans of companies on Facebook are fans for this reason – to stay up to date.
3) Network on LinkedIn Groups
Lots of small businesses and professionals grow their businesses by networking with people. Meeting people and sharing helpful knowledge drives business over time. People do business with people they know, like and trust.
LinkedIn groups allow you connect with others based on a shared interest. You can join a group and contribute to discussions or share interesting news. By using LinkedIn to build relationships you can earn new customers over time.
4) Connect with Prospects with a Webinar
Webinars are becoming increasingly popular ways to connect with prospects adn provide value to customers. Webinars are virtual and web-based. A webinar is typically hosted around a specific topic and people sign up, call in and log-in on their computer and they can watch and listen to a live session on a specific topic.
Webinars are very popular in categories that are high-information. Most B-to-B business fall in to this categoy, but it also works for consumer products. If people are looking for knowledge or information on your subject area, a webinar can be a powerful tool to share information with them and position yourself as a leader.
5) Be a Thought Leader with a Blog
Blogs are very popular for a variety of reasons (we’ll discuss one more of them later in this post). One of the reasons is that a blog can establish you as an expert and thought leader in your industry. If people trust you and see you as knowledgeable they are more likely to do business with you.
Run a gym? Share workout tips. Real Estate Agent? Share posts highlighting the people and events in your neighborhood. Restaurant? Show how you make signature drinks or menu items.
6) Connect with Customers and Prospects with an email newsletter
So maybe *technically* this isn’t social media, but it is relatively simple and cheap for most businesses to create a newsletter. Constant Contact and MailChimp offer services for under $25 a month and are easy to use.
An email newsletter can keep your customers and prospects up to speed on news, deals and promotions. Email remains the preferred communication method of most people (1:10 preference over social media) to stay up to date.
7) Join an online community
There are online communities for almost everything these days. Seek out a discussion forum or community that is specific to your business and participate!
You can connect with customers (or potential customers) and really learn about them. What are they interested in? What do they talk about? What do they want and need in products? Participating and listening to communinities that are comprised of your business target can improve your product but also lead to sales as you build relationships.
8) Monitor and Respond to your Reviews
There are many business review sites – from product reviews on amazon to restaurant and store reviews on yelp to complaints on The Ripoff Report. Whatever your business line, chances are there are review sites that are relevant. Even Facebook has included reviews on fan pages. Google has reviews in their listings.
Look for and respond to reviews (both good and bad). Saying thanks to a good review can build an evangelist and encourage word-of-mouth. Responding to a negative review can help clarify the situation. Showing that you care about negative reviews and plan to take action shows your side of the situation to the hundreds of people who view the review.
9) Get Found on Search Engines with a Blog
Another great reason to start a blog is to get traffic from search engines. Because blogs are content rich (you typically create content for them on a regular basis) search engines give traffic to sites with blogs.
In almost anything that you search for you’ll find a number of blogs show up in search results. If people find you business through search a blog can increase the probability that you will show up in results. This leads to traffic and (hopefully) sales.
10) Generate Awareness with a Video
Videos can be great ways to connect with your audience. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million! Video is a great way to share information – whether it is a video showing how you make a dish, customers talking about their satisfaction or a video demo of your product – videos are powerful tools.
Create a video for your business to make a deeper connection with your audience. Whatever your business there are many different creative ways to use and share videos.
This list isn’t exhaustive – it is simply a handful of the tactics and tools that are included in the Social Media Action Pack.
How are you using social media for your small business?
I had the privilege of presenting at the AdClub career day last week. There were about 70 job hunters in attendance – mostly new grads.
I shared the presentation below on how to build your brand and reputation online. One of the main discussion areas was around Facebook – how do you manage Facebook when you leave college and enter the job-seeking world?
According to a Global Microsoft Survey:
70% of recruiters have rejected a candidate based on their online reputation?
Yet less than half consider their reputation when posting content online.
Only 15% of consumers thought that their online reputation impacted their job search.
Clearly, your online reputation is more important than you think.
The analogy I used is that Facebook is like your living room… if your boss is coming over you would probably clean up a bit. You wouldn’t borrow another house, or totally change everything, but you would definitely clean up, and maybe even put a few things out of site. That is how you should treat Facebook and your job search – clean up a little!
We were fortunate enough to have some recruiters in the room who told students that they will do a facebook search, and it does factor in to their hiring decision. While they won’t specifically friend request or try to work around privacy settings, the information that you make publicly accessible on Facebook does factor into the decision.
What are your thoughts?
You can see the full presentation below.
Here are some of the key ideas of the presentation.
Social Media is about:
Conversations – It is about people talking to people. Be respectful of that.
Amplification – Voices are amplified online. People have the ability to spread messages to lots of other people.
Control – Brands are losing control over their marketing messages. Consumers are gaining control.
It Matters – Social media is big and growing. It isn’t a trend that is passing. People trust people. Eyeballs and time spent online are growing. You can connect with more people faster with social media.
The Basics on Social Media Channels
Are big and growing. 77% of internet users read blogs. Over 26 million americans have started a blog.
You have two options to participate (they aren’t exclusive):
1. Start a blog as a way to connect with consumers.
2. Reach out to bloggers and build relationships with them.
Twitter is big and growing. It is predicted to have 18 million users by the end of 2009. By 2010 over 15% of US adults will have a twitter page.
There are lots of different opportunities to build your brand on twitter – and real results. Dell has transacted over $2.5 million in sales. JetBlue answers customer support.
People are probably already talking about you on twitter. Find them. Talk to them. Participate in shaping your brand online.
Has over 300 million active users. It isn’t just for young kids – the fastest growing demographic is 35+.
Your customers are on Facebook and may want to connect with you there.
One company in the room was surprised to discover that they had a facebook page. They were even more surprised to see that customers had been using the wall post section to post questions.
Some of your customers may want to use facebook to connect with you. Be there and participate. Give them service where and when they want it.
LinkedIn presents a great opportunity to connect with prospects and find specific people or companies. It is search friendly – so you can use it to look up specific people and see how you are connected to them.
The key to success on LinkedIn is to do more than just create a profile. Be active, use groups and questions to build your network.
The Job Boards can also be very effective – you can post jobs and get fantastic applicants.
The key to success with social media is to be strategic – start with clear goals and objectives. Be disciplined – don’t let Facebook and Twitter become time drains – use them strategically and clearly set and define the amount of time you are willing to spend on them.
Social media is the shiny new toy that every marketer wants. And why wouldn’t they?
Myth #1: Social Media is Free
Fact: You should expect to invest in social media.
Whether you are spending employee time or paying an agency or consultant, the reality is that social media isn’t free. What’s more, to be effective in social media a great investment in learning and research is required. Most social sites are free to join, but using them effectively takes time and sometimes money.
Social media isn’t free – remember – Time is Money! Doing it right isn’t as easy as signing up. Be prepared to invest.
Myth #2: Younger People “get” Social Media
Fact: Social Use of Social Media is NOT the Same as Employing it as a Marketing Strategy
It would be like hiring the kid who watches the most TV to write your ad copy. Sure it might work out (there are some examples of brilliant consumer created ads), but most of the entries are garbage. The reason is that it takes more than exposure to the medium – it takes strategy, marketing know-how and great creative execution.
Young people are often more active on social sites like Facebook and Myspace, but don’t confuse this with the ability to use these tools to build your business.
Myth #3: Social Media is Easy
Fact: The Barriers to Entry are Low, but Getting it Right is Harder
It is easy to sign up for twitter or start a blog, but using it effectively to build your business isn’t quite so easy. Many marketers focus on “getting a fan page” or “starting a twitter account” but creating a social media account is only the first step (although arguably it should be the last step – after developing a strategy and evaluating options and resources.
Many companies fail witht their social media efforts and give up. Since the barriers to entry are so low, anyone can join, but to be successful dedication, knowledge, strategy, creative and research are required (to name a few).
Social media may be harder than you think – failure rates in corporate blogs are high and many corporate twitter accounts lack any real engagement (sometimes by both the company and consumers).
When using social media to build your business be prepared to roll up your sleves and do some work.
Myth #4: Social Media is Fast
Fact: Social Media Takes Time
Social Media takes time – both to listen and understand the communities as well as to figure out how to use it effectively.
Getting it right in social media is difficult, and it takes trial and error. TV ads have great ROI but marketers spent decades perfecting the ads down to a formula. When entering social media be prepared to try different things and measure results. There isn’t a magic formula – different things work for different audiences and in different communities.
Seeing an ROI from social media takes time.
Myth #5: Social Media Can’t Be Measured
Fact: Social Media is Measurable – But Measure More than just Followers and Fans
Marketers struggle with measuring social media since it doesn’t always result in a direct transaction – especially if you don’t sell products online. What is more, many people focus on the wrong metrics – like fans and followers – versus effectiveness metrics like engagement and sentiment.
Measuring fans and followers is like using only reach to evaluate the effectiveness of your TV or print ad. Effectiveness is a combination of how good your creative is times the number of people who see it.
There are a number of effective ways to measure social media beyond just looking at followers and fans. What are the click through rates to your corporate site from social sites? How many key influencers in your audience have you connected with? How many people retweet you? What is your score on Twitter Grader or Klout? How many of your fans visit your page? How many bloggers mention you? What is the sentiment of your brand comments online? These are just a few, and the right metrics will depend on your goals and objectives.
You can also set up campaigns to specifically measure twitter. Create a specific coupon code or run social media specific promotions and measure engagement.
Myth #6: Social Media is for Everyone
Fact: Consider Your Strategy First, then Choose the Tool
There are a lot of surprising success stories with social media – companies that you think would have a tough time using social tools that are actually extremely effective.
That being said, social media isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to it you may end up wasting your time completely. Creating an account that is later abandoned may end up having negative impacts on your organization and can signal that you don’t really care.
Creating an expectation that you will communicate with consumers by a social channel and then ignoring them may create more problems than it solves.
Be sure that you have the right resources before diving in, and set clear expectation about how you will communicate. If you decide to abandon a social channel, communicate it clearly and provide alternate channels for people to get in touch with you.
Myth #7: Social Media is a Great Way for me to Talk
Fact: Social Media is an Effective Tool for Listening. Talk Later.
When entering social media, the first question many people ask is “what should I say?”. The first question should be “Who should I listen to?”.
Prior to entering a social media, spend some time listening to the people that you want to connect with. What are they interested in? What do they talk about? What makes them mad? What are the acceptable norms of communication?
Companies often jump in and lead with a heavy marketing message versus listening, understanding the community and really joining the conversation. By listening first companies can more effectively participate in social communities. Remember, they are social (it isn’t just a clever name).